22. Max Veronneau (Reader Rank: 22, Last Year: N/A)
While he doesn’t carry quite the same hype as a Jimmy Vesey or Samuel Girard, Max Veronneau signed with the Ottawa Senators as one of the top college free agents available this offseason. A local player, growing up in Ottawa, he spent his last four seasons playing for Princeton University, where he torched the ECAC division with fellow local talent Ryan Kuffner (who signed with the Detroit Red Wings).
The dynamic duo of Veronneau and Kuffner were the driving force behind Princeton’s offence. Kuffner became their all-time leading goal scorer, and Veronneau served almost exclusively as his setup man. Veronneau was still generating chances for himself too, averaging four shots on goal per game. He’s a very quick player, which certainly helped him garner a large amount of league interest.
The right-winger scored at over a point-per-game rate in his last three NCAA seasons, peaking in 2017-18 with 55 points in 36 games, and being named to the ECAC’s first all-star team. His scoring couldn’t go any higher than that, however, taking a step back last season with 37 points in 31 games. It still placed him as one of the top scorers in college hockey for the third year in a row, although the stagnant trajectory raises a tiny red flag.
His track record in the NCAA is fantastic, but Veronneau gets bumped down in this list mainly because he’s one of the Senators’ oldest prospects. At 23 years old, he’s already at the age where he’s expected to be at his peak, so his potential to improve even further is far less than someone coming out of their draft year. If he wants to be a full-time NHLer, he’ll have to prove himself right out of the gate.
As for gaining a roster spot, that alone may be a bit of a challenge. Drake Batherson, Jonathan Davidsson and Jack Rodewald will also be vying to crack the main roster as rookies, so Veronneau may have to begin the season in the AHL. He lacks the professional experience of the three listed players, so his adjustment period to the NHL may take a bit longer.
Veronneau already received a twelve-game tryout at the end of last season, where he scored his first two NHL goals while playing third-line minutes (even though his on-ice results were far from solid). Maybe the Sens liked what they saw, and decide to thrust him immediately into an NHL role. They had to bid for his services, after all, and the prospect of playing in the NHL right away may have been what drew Veronneau to the Senators in the first place.
Next season will be a crucial one for Veronneau. Will he turn into a scoring middle-six winger, or fizzle out like the rest of the Sens’ college free agents? The track record is there, but the adjustment will be crucial.